Thursday, June 19, 2014

High School Students Participate in Professional Logger Training Program

Back row, left to right: Chuck Coup (PA SFI Program Manager), Ethan Shawley, Bryce Bason, Russ Mazzotta, John May (Natural Resources Management Program Instructor).
Front Row, left to right: Dustin Windle, Curtis Hess, Dameon Ilgen, Ethan Wheeler, Logan Firestone.

A new partnership between the Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative (PA SFI) and Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, PA allows students enrolled in the school’s Natural Resources Management Program to participate in the state’s premier logger training program at no cost to the students or the school. This spring marked the first class to complete the core requirements for the PA Professional Timber Harvester Training Program, administered by the PA SFI. This is the same training that many professional loggers are required to complete, including those that cut commercial timber sales on state forestlands. The training program emphasizes safety, environmental conservation, and professionalism.

“Pennsylvania’s Forest Products industry is recognizing that finding and attracting new employees with the basic skills and work ethics necessary to carry out logging operations is becoming both an immediate and long term problem,” said Chuck Coup, Program Manager for Pennsylvania SFI. “We hope that building partnerships like this will help encourage students at the high school level to consider a future career in the forest products industry.”

A report from a November 2013 Forum conducted by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Hardwoods Development Council identifies lack of qualified skilled loggers as one of the top threats to the future of the state’s forest products industry.

Central Mountain High School instructor John May agrees that the partnership between the PA SFI and the Natural Resources Management Program at Central Mountain High School is a great addition and provides several positive outcomes and opportunities. “It provides students with industry recognized training that will aid them in finding employment after graduation, and provides the industry with young people that have a sincere interest and proper training,” May said. “It has also helped the students to develop a better sense of pride and appreciation for their education because they are able to see directly how it will benefit them in the future.”

The Natural Resource Management Program at Central Mountain High School dates back to 1985 when it was simply known as the Forestry Program. Since that time students have been learning how to manage forest resources and safely operate chainsaws and portable sawmills in a hands-on setting.

The Pennsylvania SFI program has been operating the statewide Professional Timber Harvester Training program since 1995. More than 7,000 individuals have participated in the training aimed at reducing logging accidents, increasing the productivity and professionalism of Pennsylvania’s loggers, and improving the sustainability of timber harvesting practices in the state. The PA SFI program office is located in Bellefonte, PA.

Delivery of the PA SFI logger training to the school was supported in part by funding from the Keystone Wood Products Association, which strives to enhance the lumber and wood products manufacturers of Central Pennsylvania through promotion of career opportunities in the industry and other initiatives.

Pennsylvania Logger Wins National Game of Logging Competition

Ron L. Andrus of Galeton, PA won the National Game of Logging Championship and Soren Eriksson Cup at the 2014 Game of Logging National Competition in Essex Junction, Vermont on Saturday, May 10th.

The event was held in conjunction with the Northeast Forest Products Equipment Expo. Seven professional competitors from Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont participated in the National Championship after winning their state regional event.

The professional loggers competed in 7 events; speed cut, bore cut, precision stump, big stump, aiming, spring pole, and tree felling. Each event challenged the competitors’ skills in cutting and chainsaw handling; testing their speed, accuracy, and precision. The seven events were scored by Game of Logging instructors with an overall total of 644 points. Competitors were subject to point deductions for violating any one of 12 safety rules during the competition.

When the sawdust had settled, Pennsylvania’s logger, R.L. Andrus had come out on top. With a combined score of 475 points and no safety violations, Andrus had won (or tied for the lead) 3 of the events and beat out the next highest score by 25 points.

Andrus is the 24th National Game of Logging Champion. He received a $1,000 prize and will have his name engraved on the base of the Soren Eriksson Cup – the competition’s traveling trophy.

Andrus began working full time in the logging industry at the age of 18. Most of his 24 years in Pennsylvania’s forests have been spent working with his father, Ron E. Andrus. For the last year he has been working for Appalachian Woodlands Consulting Inc., out of Wellsboro, PA. Andrus also participates in the Pennsylvania SFI Professional Timber Harvester Training Program, the state’s premier logger training program. Since 1998, Andrus has received 72 hours of training aimed at improving safety, professionalism, and environmental conservation in logging.

The Game of Logging National Competitions have been going on for 24 years in various regions of the United States. However, this will likely be the last time the national event is held. Pennsylvania won the very first National Competition back in 1991, and now it appears that the event’s history will end with a Pennsylvania winner as well.

A sincere congratulations go out to Ron Andrus on behalf of the Pennsylvania SFI Implementation Committee.

Photo: Ron L. Andrus (right) accepts National Game of Logging Championship Prize and Soren Eriksson Cup from Game of Logging Instructor John Adler (left) at the 2014 Game of Logging National Competition in Essex Junction, Vermont on Saturday, May 10th.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Future Logging Careers Act Introduced in U.S. House

In early May Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced H.R. 4590, the Future Logging Careers Act. The bill would legally allow sons and daughters of family-owned timber harvesting businesses to work in those businesses by amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. It would only apply to 16-17 year olds who work under the supervision of their parents or by another designated person in an entity owned or operated by such parent or person. The bill would prohibit such youth from operating chain saws and cable skidders.

The 16-17 year old children of farmers and ranchers currently are allowed to work on farms and ranches, learning to operate heavy equipment, also an essential skill in timber harvesting operations. The American Loggers Council supports the bill as a means to ensure the long-term health of the logging industry.